Goin' Fishin'

Arizona's tight-knit blues community is about to lose its longtime ambassador, Big Pete Pearson

Musicians who've played with him say Pearson never exploited them. Hubbard says it's always been that way.

"If L.P. had a dollar, everyone in the band had a dollar," he says.

As for the current incarnation of the Blues Sevilles, Pearson says, "I got some pretty good people working with me."

Moe Denham, an aging hippie who plays the "strap-on keyboard," or "Roland Midi Remote Controller," has been with Pearson since June 1994. A musician by trade, Denham is the music director and master of ceremonies for the Blues Sevilles.

Through the years, Denham has played with Neil Young, George Thorogood, Albert King, Gregg Allman, Lonnie Mack and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, to name a few. His home base before Phoenix was Nashville, and before leaving the Music City, Denham was told to hook up with Pearson.

"Pete represents a type of energy and music that is fairly urban and traditional. A lot of the stuff Pete does fits with my interests," Denham says.

The "strap-on keyboard," which acts like a keyboard on a computer, allows Denham to produce three sounds: a Hammond organ, an acoustic Fender Rhodes piano and a variety of horns. They all give the Blues Sevilles a fuller sound and the illusion of a bigger band.

When he is not keeping time like Big Ben, drummer Alvieto Robinson can be found giving riding lessons. His day job landed him a role in the recent TNT production Buffalo Soldier and a friendship with Danny Glover.

Robinson has been with Pearson on and off for 10 years. Before leaving Detroit because "Motown closed down," Robinson says he played with "Junior Walker, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations and other Motown people."

"I am doing what I love to do best--playing music, traveling and making money," said Robinson. "That's what it's all about."

Robinson brings style to the Blues Sevilles. His pants have a sharp crease, his shirt or vest are always crisp and his boots shine.

Sometimes looking like Munch's "Scream" wrapped around his guitar, Kirk Hawley lays down the licks and slides his way into the night. Hawley, who was born in Alaska and grew up in Australia, the Bahamas and Trinidad, has been a member of the Blues Sevilles since October.

Uncharacteristically shy for a guitar player, Hawley did stints with Francine Reed, as well as the Effects, a Valley reggae band. During the past few years, Hawley, a computer programmer by day, "played about half a dozen gigs. Now I'm playing four or five times a week.

"It's attitude that makes this work. Pete is a hell of a nice guy and it's pretty inspiring playing with him."

The newest member of the Blues Sevilles is Kati Ingino. She came to Phoenix in 1988 to visit her grandmother.

"I went to Char's and heard Small Paul and Beat Street playing. That knocked my socks off," she says.

In January 1991, Ingino had her first gig with Duke Draper. She also played with Roadside Attraction and Sistah Blue.

During the day, Ingino is a businesswoman, co-owner of Coffee Dada, a Mill Avenue coffee shop.

She looks like a misplaced punk rocker--leopard tights, a black, low-cut, tight lace top, a tattoo on her left arm, and clunky, dusty boots.

She'd wanted to play with Pearson for years. "He's the hottest band around," she says.

Big Pete Pearson's philosophy on work: "I work every day, I work every night. It's not a matter of whether I got the strength to do it. If there is something need to be done, just do it. That's the way I was raised. There is no such thing as you can't do it. You can do it if you wanna do it."

"He plays just as rough for two people as he does for a big crowd. It doesn't matter," says former lead ax man Donnie Dean.

Bashir Chedid, one of the owners of Char's, appreciates that work ethic. "Big Pete shows the utmost class," he says. "He's very professional. He comes in when he is sick, he always shows up."

During the summer of 1992, Pearson put on five shows, in four cities, spanning three time zones, in a two-day period.

He arrived in San Antonio on a Sunday morning. "I did a show at noon. We drove out of San Antonio to Austin. I did another show there at 3:30. I drove back to San Antonio and spent the night there," he says.

The next morning Pearson performed in San Antonio again. "I flew out of San Antonio to Salt Lake City, did a show at 7:30 that evening."

He was paid in the limo on the way to the airport, and was the last person on the plane. "The plane was moving before I sat down," he says.

When Pearson arrived in Phoenix, he hailed a cab at the airport. The driver took the airport exit that would produce a higher fare. After some discussion, the driver altered his course.

"He made a U-ey and came back and he's driving fast. I said, 'You're gonna make me late.' Then, sure enough, there's a wreck and we can't get through. I have to sit there for 25 minutes. Now I'm already late. My band is about to go nuts because they don't even know where I am."

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